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Kasich proposes gun reform measures

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COLUMBUS — Gov. John Kasich on Thursday unveiled a package of proposed gun law reforms to prohibit the sale of armor-piercing ammunition and third-party “strawman” sales of guns to people prohibited from having them.

Ohio would follow the lead of several other states in strengthening efforts for law enforcement to get gun violence protection orders against those deemed a danger to themselves and others, and would crack down on local governments that fail to promptly report data into the national background system checked by sellers.

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Ohio Gov. John Kasich

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But he stopped short of asking for a ban on the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, mandating universal background checks for all sales, or prohibiting gun sales to those under the age of 21.

And he would tie Ohio law to the still undeveloped federal position on the sale of bump stocks that can make semi-automatic weapons fire almost as rapidly as automatic weapons. Such a device was used by the shooter at a Las Vegas outdoor concert last fall.

“At this point I’m optimistic about the fact that the legislature will look at this, take it seriously, and get some things moving,” Mr. Kasich said.

The recommendations came from an unofficial working group that included former lawmakers and others from both sides of the political aisle and the gun debate.

They included former Democratic state Sen. Nina Turner, of Cleveland, and former state Rep. Ron Maag, a rural southwest Ohio Republican.

“That’s like Martin Luther and the Pope sitting down,” Mr. Kasich said. “It’s just never happened before.”

After working behind closed doors, the group reached consensus on these recommendations, but Mr. Kasich did not rule out future discussions on issues like mandating universal background checks.

Although endorsed by the National Rifle Association during his 2014 re-election, Mr. Kasich was not always embraced by the gun lobby. After receiving “A” grades from the NRA early in his congressional career, Mr. Kasich received an “F” after his congressional vote in 2004 for the federal assault weapons ban.

The organization endorsed his Democratic opponent, incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland, during Mr. Kasich’s first gubernatorial campaign in 2010.

But during his seven-plus years as governor, Mr. Kasich has signed every bill that has reached his desk to gradually expand who can legally carry concealed handguns and where they can carry them.

On Thursday, he signed House Bill 79 allowing certain “tactical medical professionals” to carry guns in their personal lives as if they had concealed-carry licenses. The bill refers to emergency medical technicians, paramedics, nurses, or physicians who are assigned to law enforcement agencies that have authorized them to carry guns while on duty.

The package of gun law reforms unveiled by the governor Thursday was attacked by Mr. Kasich’s own lieutenant governor, who is running this year for governor — with his endorsement.

“I am deeply concerned that the first instinct of a Republican administration is to roll back the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Ohioans in response to a tragedy,” she said. “Banning the sale of certain weapons, ammunition, or accessories does nothing to address the root causes of these evil acts.

“In fact, pushing more gun control laws, which disproportionately affect good actors, exposes vulnerable soft targets to the bad actors,” Ms. Taylor said.

She said the focus should instead be on securing schools and other potential targets of violence, and addressing the mental and society problems that cause acts of mass violence.

Attorney General Mike DeWine, Ms. Taylor’s opponent for the GOP nomination, also focused on mental health and school security.

"We support increasing Ohio’s criminal penalties for people who illegally buy guns for criminals and agree that more should be done to require local courts to follow laws about submitting criminal convictions on time to our background check system. However, reducing the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners or proposing new bans doesn't address the problem.”

The governor’s proposal was warmly greeted on the Democratic side of the aisle.

“By putting partisan divides behind us, we will be closer to the day when our children don’t have to live in fear of gun violence,” said state Rep. David Leland (D., Columbus), a former Ohio Democratic Party chairman.

“Keeping those we love safe and protected from senseless, random acts of violence should be our highest priority,” he said. “The framework proposed by the governor today brings us closer to that point.”

But he hopes a minimum age limit for gun buyers will be put back on the table, a nod to the 19-year-old former student who walked into a Parkland, Fla. high school two weeks ago with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle he’d legally purchased a year earlier.

He killed 13 students and four adults.

Mr. DeWine, also a Republican candidate for governor, on Thursday issued his annual report on concealed-carry, noting 131,345 new licenses were issued in Ohio in 2017.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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